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How’s That New Universal Orlando App?

Hey new Universal Orlando app, welcome to my smart phone. Nice to see you join my collection of theme park navigation tools that I carry around in my pocket. Today, Universal Orlando unvieled it’s FREE iPhone and Android app to the world. Having talked about Universal’s social media and interactive presense the past few week on the Eye on Orlando Radio Show, I immediatly went to the app store and downloaded it. Let’s take a look inside.

It’s main features are an interactive park map, attraction information, dining locations, and a “Check In” game for Facebook. But does it all work as advertised? First off, its GPS enabled. It has you “allow your current location” at start up. It’s comforting to know I live precisely 27 miles away from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Noticeably missing are Park Hours. Also, show times are not in one location, but found only if you click on that specific show. Not very user friendly when trying to plan the day. Honestly, the interface overall is a bit clunky. It’s not something that is visually appealing. I don’t feel I can just jump right in and start playing around. A good app shouldn’t make me waist time figuring out where to click to figure out where I want to go. Also, the odd thing about this app, is I all too easily jump out of the Universal Orlando part of the app. Numerous times, after a click of a button, I was tossed into a Google map of my current location. Worse part is, it’s hard to find my way back. I have to actually go out to the Guide Menu then back. There really isn’t a Main Menu.

There are basically five sections: Guides, Carousel, Map, Info and Account. Guides is where you choose to look at Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure or City Walk. Pretty straigh forward, right? But with no Main Menu, its not intuitive to go there. Also, this app is made by Geodelic who makes other area guides. I ended up on a Dublin, Ireland guide before I ever found the Universal Orlando guide. And like I said, with no Main Menu, it’s hard to get back on track.

You can view the Theme Park in three different views; List, Carousel and Map. In List view, you can only view the locations that are in the catagory you have selected, such as dining or shops. You can not jump around catagories in list view. Carousel view is the easiest for a smart phone user. You select a catagory up top and then spin the logos around to look through your options. You can also pick a catagory and go to map view, where you can see drop pins with all the locations in that catagory. Those drop pins work like Google Maps. When you select a location, you get info specific to that ride, restaurant, shop, etc. You can view facts, show times, hieght restrictions and photos. But surprisingly under dining, no menus, just a general idea of what is there. You can also choose to “Check In” via your Facebook account.

To make this interactive for guests, Universal is using this “Check In” feature to award guests with tangable prizes. If you check in to the 10 locations they tell you to in that day, you can claim a prize. The current prize is a Universal Savings Guide which contains over $150 worth of savings. OK, not the world’s greatest prize… but hopefully they have some food or merchandise coupons for stuff you would purchase anyway. I do like this check in idea. I hope Disney picks up on it and offers a pin or something more collectable than a coupon booklet.

The info button takes you to… yep, some information. But nothing much useful here. The “How to Use the App” button tells me about turing on and off the GPS feature and where the parking garages are. They say to take a picture of your section so you remember where it is. Great, but that helps me use this app how? It also tells me that normaly the park opens at 9am and closing times vary. Thanks info button!

The account button is probably awesome if I had a bunch of Geodelic apps and an account. I don’t, and probably won’t.

Pros: Free, It technically does have a map of the parks, Check In

Cons: Clumsy interface, No Park Hours, Slow loading map and screens, Check In prize

When I have a Theme Park app on my phone, it must make my life easier. It must replace paper equivelents or give me extra information that I need to know, or that entertains me. This app does none of that. It’s speed doesn’t entice me to play around with it. It’s poor interface doesn’t let me easily look around. It’s certainly not a replacement for a real Theme Park Map in my hands. And it doesn’t have Park Hours. Overall, I say pass on the first version of the Universal Orlando app. It’s FREE price tag makes it tempting, but I don’t need it taking up room on my smart phone.

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